Sound, sophisticated cultural analysis sure to spark a debate.

IMMODERATE GREATNESS

WHY CIVILIZATIONS FAIL

Civilization, for all its wonders and advantages, is destined to collapse due to its nature, writes Ophuls in this meticulously argued treatise.

Using the fall of Roman civilization as both example and metaphor—the title is part of a quote from Edward Gibbon’s The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1776)—Ophuls discusses the physical and human limitations inherent to any society. He identifies four basic biophysical factors and two human factors as being the deciding variables in determining when a civilization passes its peak and enters its decline; he explains how and why these factors not only lead to a civilization’s collapse, but how the nature of these factors works against developing viable solutions to the problems they present. Ophuls takes a multidisciplinary approach to constructing his arguments, drawing on concepts and copious sources from the sciences, political theory, historical research and literature to synthesize an argument that pleads for humanity to take a long view toward the use and preservation of resources. The writing is clear and succinct in this politico-historical analysis, and the logic of Ophuls’ arguments is patiently built, with careful thought and copious citations offered as support. However, not every point in Ophuls’ sophisticated theoretical structure is without a weakness. His arguments on culture and its apparent limitations depend too closely on a monocultural viewpoint, and one chapter displays a curious misunderstanding of certain aspects of the scientific method and its attendant viewpoints. Furthermore, although technology is discussed as a cultural force, scant attention is given to the role of transformative technologies—the telephone, TV and the Internet, for example—in how a culture develops and changes. Also, some readers may take issue with the inherent moral and political conservatism Ophuls displays in his discussions of moral decay and human limitation. Despite these flaws, as well as the lack of a prescriptive conclusion, Ophuls’ clear writing, thorough research and elegant logic make his treatise a thoughtful, discussion-provoking work.

Sound, sophisticated cultural analysis sure to spark a debate.

Pub Date: Dec. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-1479243143

Page Count: 116

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2013

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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